I have been looking forward to Esther Crow’s new album Listen Lead Love ever since she debuted the singles “Homemade Halloween” and “Christmas Socks” late last year. After listening to the album, I have to say, it was well worth the wait. On her second outing as a solo artist, Esther leans into her unique retro-rock style to great affect. The album kicks off with “Start the Discussion” (featuring special guests Strawbitty Yops). This call to action encourages listeners to take the initiative and start talking about the climate crisis. As with many of the songs on the album, Esther crafts lyrics that break down the issue in ways that make it easily accessible to children. In addition to the climate crisis, she takes on the importance of switching to solar power, the need to move away from creating waste and instead recycle, reuse, and repurpose, and in the closing track, the directive to not be afraid to let your voices be heard and “March!”
For most of the songs in this collection, Esther’s power vocals are backed by drums and electric guitars with melodies that often call back to the rock of the 1960s and 1970s. On “The Leader in You,” Esther injects reggae into the groovy sound she creates with Kare Africa Kids by including a special guest appearance from Father Goose. Just past the halfway point in the music there is a gentle interlude in the form of a duet between Esther and Kymberly Stewart. The veteran performers’ voices blend perfectly on “Feelings are a Rollercoaster,” creating a beautiful moment where listeners are reassured that emotions are ok to feel and that real friends stick by each other during the happy and the sad times. By the end of the chorus children will feel as though they are wrapped in a warm hug.
Listen Lead Love isn’t just the name of Esther’s second album. It’s also how she approaches life. Esther shares that philosophy with families as a reminder that we only have one Earth and and it’s important that we love and honor the planet, as well as all those who inhabit it. Listen Lead Love will be released on Earth Day – April 22.
Esther Crow brings audiences another Earth conscious video in “Christmas Socks (Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose),” her follow up to October’s “Homemade Halloween.” This time around, Esther and her sock puppet friends encourage viewers to explore ways to repurpose items like jam jars, coffee tins, and wrapping paper into gifts and decorations. Esther never shies away from her message, but wraps it in a fun melody with a 1950’s flair (featuring a kazoo solo!!) that will have listeners chanting “recycle, reuse, repurpose!”
As a child of the 80s, I grew up having a great appreciation for homemade costumes. My mom was incredibly creative (If you showed her an egg carton, she came up with half a dozen uses for it. Show me an egg carton, I see an egg carton.) – she could knit, crochet, paint ceramics, and most importantly, sew. Whether it was a new blouse or dress, doll clothes, or holiday decor, she could do it all. And when it came to Halloween, my mom’s creativity and skill really got a chance to shine.
Each year as October 31st rolled around, my sister and I were allowed to let our imaginations run wild. Once in a while we got a store bought costume, but for the most part, our costumes were homemade. We would often combine items from around the house with things that my mom made. One year, my gym shorts and tennis shoes were the perfect accompaniment to an exotic bird mask while the next year, I raided my mom’s closet for jewelry and scarves to be a fortune teller. My sister on the other hand went a little grander, portraying things like a Hershey’s chocolate bar, a jack o’lantern, and a slice of watermelon.
I had forgotten about these costumes until I watched the video for Esther Crow’s new holiday song, “Homemade Halloween.” As soon as I heard the opening lyrics to this rocker of a tune, my Halloween memories came flooding back. One of the things I love most about this song, aside from the nostalgia factor, is that not only does it encourage creativity, but also sustainability – a theme that runs through much of Esther’s music. If the kids in your life haven’t chosen their costumes yet, watch “Homemade Halloween” for inspiration then look around the house to see what wonderous outfits you can create.
It’s Earth Day! Celebrate this rock we call home with a new, high-octane tune from Esther Crow. Disheartened by ever-growing landfills that contribute to the climate crisis and inspired by purging some of her own “stuff,” Esther wrote this song to encourage families to be greener and consider donating items they no longer want rather than tossing them in the trash. Produced by Dean Jones, this call-and-response rock song which features Esther’s eight-year-old son on mandolin and violin, gets the message across in a gloriously frenetic way. After jamming along, listeners will surely be left with the desire to take a good hard look at all their “stuff.”
Welcome to Kids Rhythm and Rock’s fourth annual Children’s Music Roundup! For those of you new to the blog, each year rather than doing a best of list, instead, I compile a list of my favorite albums.
2021 was an amazing year for children’s music with innumerable new artists making their way into the spotlight while more established acts continued to create incredible music and forged new musical partnerships with those they met along the way. Let’s say hello to 2022 by taking a look back at “the year that was” in children’s music. Don’t see your favorites listed below? Add them in the comments!
Esther Crow made her entrée into children’s music with her band Thunder & Sunshine’s 2017 album, This is Thunder & Sunshine. Just a handful of years later, Esther returns with All Together Now, her first solo album for families which is set to be released on June 25. The first video from the album, “It’s so Easy Being Green” debuted on May 21 and detailed simple ways we can help the planet by changing our daily habits. Today, I am pleased to premiere “Hard to be Happy,” the second video from All Together Now.
Written in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, Esther says of “Hard to be Happy,” “I was hoping to find a way to reach the very young, and to highlight the importance of empathy for others and acceptance of ourselves. I continue to struggle with the fact that people are persecuted for the color of their skin, or for whom they love.” To that end, the video features a conversation and duet between Bernie the Bee and Moonice the Cow, two of Esther’s signature paperbag-style felt puppets. In “Hard to be Happy” Moonice is struggling with the fact that instead of being black and white, Moonice is red and purple, while Bernie is coming to terms with being a bee who loves anchovies instead of flowers. While each character is facing challenges and things that make them sad, they know that they will be ok because they have each other.
Created by Jeff Lewonczyk, the simple nature of the puppets makes the theme of being yourself in order to be happy even more accessible to young listeners. The static background, puppetry, and music with a message gives “Hard to be Happy” a retro vibe, calling to mind children’s programs of the 70s and 80s. Bernie and Moonice (and Esther too) give listeners much to think about. “Hard to be Happy” ends with a courage-filled pledge that we should all adopt, “We’ll live our lives unafraid. We’ll be brave.”